Written by Bronte Dod
Tosch Roy puts a lot of thought into the backpacks he makes—and not just in the product development sense. Roy openly wonders if his business, Free Range Equipment, and his work are essential, or if he’s just producing one more product in an oversaturated outdoor gear market.
It’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of a 26-year-old.
“One of the biggest hurdles for me is that, at the end of the day, you’re manufacturing a new product for people who don’t really need it,” Roy said from his studio in Bend’s Maker District. “That’s been really hard for me.”
For now, he’s staying the course and letting consumers decide whether his Free Range packs are more than just another sack.
“I realized that there are things that you can’t stop doing even if you try, and those are the things that keep coming up in your life. For me, I love creating stuff, I like making things more efficient and I love being outside,” said Roy. “This was a really good match for me, because it brought all those together.”
Free Range started out of necessity. Roy, then 20 and in college in Montana, needed a skimo (ski-mountaineering) pack for a backcountry race. Not willing to shell out the money to buy a new pack, he designed and made one himself. Soon, he started making them for friends. Within a year, he decided to leave school to pursue the business full time.
Six years later, he’s created a range of packs for climbers and backcountry skiers and brought his sister onto the small team. Roy designs the packs, and works with a local production sewer to manufacture each product. Each pack is made to order.
Instead of letting himself get burnt out on the constant work needed to make a startup successful, he’s finding a way to make the work inspiring to him again. Partnering with local artists, he’s created a line of urban commuter backpacks featuring local artwork. “It gives me a lot of motivation in that it’s hopefully helping other people, or helping these artists,” said Roy. The packs will be available to order in April. freerangeequipment.com